Turkeys and Tornadoes Calling

Last week and through yesterday the weather reports were indicating that we had a very high chance of experiencing severe weather, including large hail and tornadoes.  It’s April, nothing unusual for Oklahoma.  A few weeks back, I had cleaned  our cellar. Tornado Season Has Arrived! My son and his family of 5 would be joining us since they don’t have a storm cellar.  So I rearranged the cellar the day before to make sure there would be plenty of room for everyone along with our 2 dogs.  I decided to order pizza so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning since predictions were indicating the storm could arrive around 5:00pm.

Earlier in the day I went to my BSF bible study thinking everything would be under control when I came back home.  Best laid plans. While I was gone, John was cleaning out a drainage ditch so that the heavy rain expected would flow through.  It began to thunder which caused some turkeys to begin gobbling.  Any loud noise will cause them to announce their location.  If I hear thunder, I automatically think “lightening, I’m done, in the house!”  But, the sound of turkeys and it’s turkey season, mean’s go get the gun for John!

When I came home, the proud hunter had a turkey that probably weighed about 25 pounds! John knows I do not clean fish or any wild game, just cook.  So he dressed and plucked.  Then it was my turn.  I’m only thinking about how am I going to cut up this turkey, find room to hold it until I can decide what to do with him and in enough time to get to the cellar!  I cut him up like you would a chicken and put the pieces in a large stock pot.  Fortunately, John’s small ice box in his shop was available to keep it refrigerated until the next day.

turkey

 

My plan is to make turkey jerky with one of the breasts, crock pot the legs and one of the  thighs for turkey pot pie and I’m going to try canning the other breast and thigh.  Wild turkey is much leaner than ones you would buy at the grocery store.  Turkey jerky is very good and I’m expecting the crock pot and pressure canning will produce a tender meat.  I love chicken that’s been pressure canned.  It actually improves the flavor.

His beautiful feathers will be used for a display that will include red cedar.  This will be a gift for my sweet daughter-in-law who loves these displays along with the European deer mounts John makes.

 

So all turned out well.  We did make a trip to the cellar.  Some high winds passed over with only one broken branch of my crepe myrtle bush and a lot of turkey to eat!

Granddaughters’ Garden

For the last several years we’ve had a little plot behind the house for a small garden for the girls, now ages 8 and 6.  We would plant tomatoes, sunflowers and any flower seeds that I might have laying around.  They are always just excited about getting outside and into the dirt as I am.

The huge sunflowers took up the small garden space so we decided to find another place for them this year.  I have planted them but so far they are not coming up.  Recently there has been a lot of rain and the sun has stayed behind the clouds.  We’re not complaining about rain in Oklahoma!  Too many years of constant drought. Hopefully when the sun comes out, the sunflowers will make their appearance.

Every year I always wish I had a salad garden close to the house to conveniently grab lettuce and tomatoes for a nice dinner salad.  This year the girls and I put in a salad garden.  I still don’t have the tomatoes planted.  Even though it was a very early Spring, our traditional last freeze date is April 15th.  Too many enthusiastic gardeners in Oklahoma put out tomatoes in March only to have them killed off by a predictable last minute freeze. I have resisted early planting, but our ground is too wet for planting right now. I think this weekend will be a good time and our harvest shouldn’t be delayed too much.

Flower seeds were planted around the garden, but so far not coming up.

Girls Garden
Lettuce and Spinach, we also grow rocks!

Fast, Frugal and Filling – or What’s for Dinner?

I have to admit it – cooking is not my passion, even though I do cook most nights of the week, 52 weeks a year.  That may come as a surprise since women on the prairie or Pioneer Women on the Osage prairie are supposed to be great cooks, while raising a large family, homeschooling and writing blogs and books. I’m just not that talented or energetic.  I do have a meat and potato kind of guy but he tolerates my food experiments.  Tonight’s experiment was an A+ so thought I would share.

Sometimes I’ll try a new recipe but tonight it had to be fast, frugal and filling.  I opened the freezer hoping a fully cooked meal would appear and found some chicken and broth I had frozen about a month ago.  This was actually the leftovers that were boiled to pick the last goodies from the bone.  I had a small amount of Amish noodles, along with some fresh mushrooms and some wild onions in a moment of soup inspiration.

wild onions

I love creamy soups; clam chowder, cream of chicken, creamy potato but I’ve learned to start with the basic white sauce to make them. It can also be used to make a delicious pot pie.  It seems to be a lost art with so many canned soups available at the store. A white sauce is cheap and can save a last minute trip to the grocery store.  So for those who’ve never tried:

  1. 3 Tablespoons butter
  2. 3 Tablespoons flour
  3. 1 cup milk, half/half, or chicken broth

The above recipe is equivalent to about 1 can of soup.  You can add any ingredients you have depending on your soup mood.

Melt butter over low heat, add the flour and cook until absorbed by the butter.  Add the liquid while whisking.  Continue stirring until the mixture is the right thickness.

Once I had my creamy soup base, I added all ingredients except the noodles.  I brought to a gentle boil and added the noodles and cooked for an additional 10 minutes.  I had some leftover cornbread muffins and even my meat and potato guy was happy!

Soup and cornbread

There really isn’t a recipe, since I just threw things into the pot, but if there was a recipe, it would be something like this:

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom and Noodle Soup

Makes Three 1 cup servings or 2 man size bowls

  1. 1/2 cup shredded chicken
  2. 1/4 cup chopped green onions or to taste
  3. 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  4. 2 cups chicken broth
  5. 2 teaspoons chicken broth base seasoning (better than the cubes)
  6. 1 cup white sauce
  7. 1/2 cup dried noodles
  8. Salt and pepper to taste

Make basic white sauce. Add all ingredients to the white sauce except noodles.  Bring to a gentle boil and add noodles.  Cook according to length of time given for noodles. Enjoy!

 

The Three R’s – Reuse, Restore, Recycle

In today’s economy, knowing the Three R’s is a valuable survival skill for all, but for the rural homestead family, it’s not an option.  There is this false fantasy that moving to the country is going to be “The Simple Life” and we’ll just quit our jobs, grow a garden and live off what we eat.  Sounds good but, it also can be a very expensive life.  There are property taxes to pay, expensive homeowner’s insurance- especially in Oklahoma where tornadoes, ice storms and now earthquakes are common place.  There can also be trucks, tractors,  garden tillers and outbuildings for storage.  All of which can be quite expensive, even though we usually always buy used and do our own maintenance. In most rural homesteads close to us, these necessities take priority over new furniture, vacations, home improvements or appliances. There is a time and place for the nicer things, but they don’t come first.  All of this is a lead up to a small project I recently completed that even my husband asked why I didn’t just buy a new one.

We were given a used swing set about 7 years ago when my first grandchild was born. Now, 3 more grandchildren later, it has seen much better days.  We’ve been having visions of a wooden fort/swing set that John could build from cedar.  Cedar stands up very well outdoors and the kids would love it.  But he has a lot of projects going on right now and I wanted something they could use now that warmer weather is here.  I thought about getting an inexpensive set at Walmart which starts at about $185 including tax. Looking closer it really wasn’t any better built than what we already have, just nicer paint.  Ours was still solid, had a nice slide and a double seated swing along with two hanging swings.  It did need to be staked in the ground and painted.  It was very rusted but still intact.

A visit to Walmart and I purchased 4 cans of Krylon Supermax paint at $4.00 per can that can be used on metal.  It said it was no rust, no sanding and no primer.  Same brand had a nice paint to be used on plastic.  I bought 2 cans for $4.50.  I ordered the stakes online with Walmart for $11.47.  The total cost $38.72 including tax.  A savings of $146 and I think a nicer swing set than if I would have bought new!  It didn’t take long at all.  We did gently sand the rough rusted surface and then spray painted.  It dried very quick. Can’t wait to find out if the grandkids notice the difference.

It’s very rewarding to restore a used item, keep it out of the landfill and save money!

 

Schroom Time

It’s been very dry this Spring but we recently had some nice rains with sunshine expected the rest of the week. The rain and the sunshine should produce the rare delicacy of wild mushrooms.   Hopefully tomorrow we’ll take the 4 wheeler out in the woods and began the annual ritual of mushroom hunting.  Actually this will be the first anniversary of a successful mushroom hunt.  We have lived here since 1995 but coming from the city, we were a little hesitant to eat something we could not properly identify.  If you don’t know what you are eating, it can make you very sick.  Also, neighbors do not reveal their hunting spots.

Two years ago, our daughter-in-law who was raised in this area, discovered Chanterrele mushrooms on a hillside near a creek.  We were a little leary, but she had ate many times before.  She sauteed in butter and they were quite delicious.

Chanterrelle 2
Chanterelle mushroom

The Chanterelle has a toxic look-a-like called the Jack-o-lantern mushroom.  It is a bright orange mushroom that has yellow orange meat inside.  The Chanterelle has a white colored meat. Underneath the Jack-o-lantern are gills that look like fans of pages of paper stacked together.  The Chanterelle has ridges as you can see in the picture above.  This mushroom comes out in summer.  It was my favorite. They are also high in vitamin D.

Most mushroom hunters look for the prized Morel, which is what should be popping up any day now.  Last year my husband found the mother lode underneath a tree close to his deer stand.  They love stands of Oak trees with lots of leaf cover on the ground. The picture below shows some of our first finds.  Unfortunately, later I discovered that you should not pull them up by the root.  They should be cut off at the base, leaving the root and put in a mesh bag to help spread the spores around so they will pop up next year. As you see these are coned shaped covered in ridges.  Not to be confused with the false morel. False morels can have a large dark colored head that looks like a brain and is solid inside while the Morel is hollow.

Morel Mushroom
Morel Mushrooms

If you go mushroom hunting take someone with you who can help you identify the correct mushroom!  After we picked our first batch, we had a neighbor inspect for us.  Now we know what to look for.

The next mushroom was found by a friend of my husband.  It is called Chicken in the Woods.  It can be battered and fried and the meat has a taste very similar to chicken breast.  This one weighed 5 pounds!  They are found at the base of dead trees.

chicken of the woods (2)

Do you go schroom hunting?  If so, what are some of your favorites?